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December 22, 2014 / 30 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Reform’

Did She or Didn’t She?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Over the past two days, while the army was shooting into the crowds in Egypt and half of Beirut was lifted by a huge car bomb, and many other awful things were happening, The Jewish Press readership has been dealing with mostly the question of the possibility that a Reform Rabbi named Angela Buchdahl could have attained her high position without the benefit of a Jewish conversion.

It started with an article in The Forward (Angela Buchdahl, First Asian-American Rabbi, Vies for Role at Central Synagogue), that basically suggested Buchdahl was not Jewish according to Jewish law:

But she also engaged Judaism at a time when the Reform movement itself was undergoing dramatic change. Eleven years after Buchdahl’s birth, in a move still hotly debated in all streams of Judaism, including within Reform Judaism itself, the Reform movement overturned more than 2,000 years of tradition that recognized only those whose mother was Jewish as Jews from birth. Others, including those with just a Jewish father, were required to undergo a process of conversion, though this process varied among Judaism’s different streams.

Starting in 1983, as intermarriage advanced steadily among its members, Reform Judaism conferred a “presumption of Jewish descent” on those with one Jewish parent, whether it was a father or a mother. The one condition to this recognition was that it be established “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith,” according to the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In many ways, Buchdahl represents the flowering of this revolution in Judaism, and symbolizes a kind of coming of age of its children.

This was coupled with an article in Hadassah Magazine:

Profile: Angela Buchdahl

Though Buchdahl’s mother did not convert, she wanted her children to find a home in the Jewish community. Her father instilled Jewish pride in his children and gave them a Jewish vocabulary, says Buchdahl, but it was her mother who imparted a sense of spiritual yearning and wonder. Her mother’s Buddhism informs her Judaism, she says, noting that Jewish and Korean cultures overlap in their approach to life, their emphasis on giving back and their drive to succeed and to be educated.

So yours truly, enchanted by the concept of the non-Jewish Rabbi, charged ahead. I still believe all the points I was making were right, namely that the Reform  doctrine of patrilineal descent and the “presumption of Judaism” in the case of a the offspring of a non-Jewish woman married to a Jew were on the money.

Except that it turns out Buchdahl may have converted to Judaism after all.

Thanks, first, to our reader Vicky Glikin of Deerfield, Illinois, who wrote:

It is highly unfortunate that your facts and the very premise for this article are plain wrong. Rabbi/Cantor Buchdahl underwent an Orthodox conversion, a fact that you would have easily discovered had you actually been trying to write an intelligent work of journalism.

So I went looking for the misrepresented conversion, and found the following line in the Times (Defining Judaism, a Rabbi of Many Firsts), hidden among long, familiar paragraphs like this one:

Her first reaction was to think about a formal conversion to Judaism, but a second impulse quickly followed: Why should she convert to prove something, when she had been a Jew her entire life? In traditional Jewish law, a Jew is defined through the mother’s line. But over roughly the last 40 years, the Reform movement in Judaism accepted descent through the father’s line as legitimate for Jewish identification, so if a child has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who affiliates as a Jew (the mother need not convert if she is involved in synagogue life), the child does not need to undergo a conversion to become a Jew.

But then, the Times revealed: “Eventually, at 21, she did undergo a conversion ceremony, but she prefers to think of it as a reaffirmation ceremony.”

Another clue was in something David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, wrote in his letter today (Hebrew Union Pres. Pulls Fast One in Non-Jewish Rabbi Debate):  “you assume an article that was written in another newspaper and upon which your author draws for his piece reveals all the facts about her life. ”

Meaning, Ellenson may have known Buchdahl had converted in an Orthodox ceremony, but to concede this would mean that he agrees that it takes an Orthodox conversion to turn even the child of a Jewish father into a real Jew — as shown by the very poster child of patrilineal descent, the subject of our attention these past two days.

I still find the entire affair more than a little bizarre: why should someone who did convert in an Orthodox ceremony be sending out all the signals that they didn’t and that they’re proud they didn’t. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next chapter of this very strange story.

‘Caged Women’ – Never Happened

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

The Women of the Wall proved today that it’s not about the prayer, but about the politics.

While they were praying, they were also busy sending out tweets from the official Women of the Wall account (I guess they have some Kavana issues).

a horrible feeling. what a shanda to encage women at the kotel

what a frustrating, painful feeling. women in a cage at the Kotel.

When I heard, “women in a cage,” I rushed to check out the photos.

With a turn of phrase like that, I knew what I was expecting to see. Needless to say, I was disappointed, when it turned out to be nothing even close…

Let’s see what’s really going on.

Here they are at the main Kotel itself, being allowed to pray according to nearly any alternative lifestyle demands they have been promoting — with direct access to the wall at the plaza, so they can also touch the same section of the wall as everyone else can while they pray, and all the tourists can watch them.

WoWCage

Yet they are using SENSATIONALIST, exaggerated terminology, tweeting to the world that they were put in cages.

Put in cages!

At first I thought it was just them being whiny, but, you know what? It’s just straight out lying.

As you can see from their own photo, that it is not the case at all.

The women’s section has been divided by a standard police divider, so that part of the women’s section is designated for those women who want to pray in the traditional Jewish manner as they have been doing at the Kotel every day, and the other part dedicated to those who want to pray in their alternative fashion, wearing male accouterments, as they do once a month.

And since the Women of the Wall have been demanding to be allowed to pray at the main Kotel plaza in their non-traditional manner – and they were allowed to do so, this argument should pretty much be over.

But that obviously is not what the Women of the Wall want (that the argument should be over).

It’s not enough that they have forced their alternative method of prayer into the Kotel.

Here’s the truth of it, based on their own tweets.

They want to force their method of prayer onto to the other women at the Kotel too, including onto those who don’t want to pray that way – whether those women want it or not.

As part of their performance politics, the Women of the Wall are demanding that everyone else be subject to their methods of prayer, while they simultaneously prove that they won’t tolerate the way the other women (or men) at the Kotel want to hold their traditional prayers.

It’s a one way street for the Women of the Wall.

I am sure that within a month or two, they’ll get their way, too, and Orthodox (and non-Orthodox) women who want to pray undisturbed in the Jewish traditional manner will be made to feel very uncomfortable in their place of prayer.

And it won’t end there.

Because, as their tweets prove, this obviously isn’t about their wish to pray at the Kotel in a manner that deviates from tradition — after all, they’ve already won 95% of that (and I’m 100% convinced they’ll get permission to read from the Torah next month).

Next we’ll see petitions to the Supreme Court to completely remove the Mechitza, and allow egalitarian (mixed prayer) prayer groups.

How long until some IRAC-connected Reform rabbi demands to be allowed to play guitar on the Sabbath at the Kotel as he or she “traditionally” does in his or her Reform Temple?

This isn’t a battle about some women wanting to dress up as men like Yentyl and pray at the Kotel.

There’s no question that many of the backers of the Women of the Wall see the obliteration of Torah Judaism in public places in Israel as their ultimate goal.

The Kotel is just one of their battlefields, and the more SENSATIONAL they can make the battle sound, and the longer they can keep it going, the better it is for their camp.

Western Wall Rabbi ‘Can Live’ with Non-Orthodox Kotel Site

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

The rabbi of the Western Wall said he “can live with” a plan presented by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky for a permanent prayer section at the Western Wall where women can organize minyans, even one for men and women together.

Sharansky briefed Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel Shmuel Rabinowitz on the plan before he left Israel to present the plan to Jewish leaders in New York on Tuesday.

“This re-division of the plaza does not match my worldview, as I believe that there should be one site of prayer according to the place’s customs, but we can live with this solution,” Rabinowitz told the Israeli daily Yediot Acharonot Wednesday.

The proposal, reported here yesterday, would turn an archaeological site adjacent to the main Western Wall plaza into a permanent place of what proponents call “egalitarian” worship.

A women’s minyan now already has been allowed under a Supreme Court ruling that sets certain times, such as Rosh Chodesh, for the women, who can pray on the women’s side of the main section of the Western Wall whenever they want as individuals.

Under the proposal, the plaza would be expanded to encompass the additional prayer space, which is at the southern part of the Western Wall.

US Jewish Women’s Council Wants Israel to Certify Civil Marriages

Monday, April 8th, 2013

The National Council of Jewish Women called on the Jewish state to create a system of civil marriage and divorce in what was seen as a landmark move.

“The monopoly of authority given to Orthodox rabbinical courts in Israel regarding issues of personal status, particularly marriage, weakens rather than strengthens the state itself by causing disunity, disrespect for the law, and even hostility among Israelis and between Israel and Jews abroad,” according to a statement released Monday by the NCJW board of directors.

Rabbi David Saperstein, the director of the Reform movements Religious Action Center, said it was the first time a mainstream U.S. Jewish group joined non-Orthodox groups in making such a call.

“What’s important to me is that an organization beyond the religious streams is beginning to call for that,” he told JTA. “That’s an important step forward. I deeply commend the NCJW for doing so and ask all Jewish organizations to join the fight for freedom of marriage.”

The women’s group cited “democratic values and civil liberties” as two reasons Israel should grant its wishes. It also claimed that the lack of civil marriages forces “thousands of Israeli couples every year to leave Israel for a civil marriage abroad” and alienates “approximately 350,000 Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union” who are not considered Jewish according to halacha.”

Civil marriages may or may not be suitable for Israel, which has a major problem coming up with a solution to heart-wrenching situations, such as that of divorced Kohenim. And even the predominantly orthodox Jewish Home party backed its non-secular Knesset Member Ayelet Shaked for coming out in support of civil marriages.

But the use of the terms “monopoly” and “civil liberties” is a populist tool to undermine the power of the Israeli Rabbinate, and the complicated issue of civil marriages is not addressed except as a matter of “democracy.”

It indeed could be said that orthodox rabbis have a monopoly in Israel. It also can be said that the American Medical Association has a monopoly on who can practice medicine and the Bar Association can decide who can practice law.

Would you call someone who has learned alternative medicine – and skips over six years of medical school – a doctor? If you change the definition of “doctor,” the answer is “yes.”

And what if someone wants to become a Reform rabbi?

Well, it seems that the evil “monopoly” also applies to the Reform movement.

Do you want to become a Reform rabbi? There are several small seminaries whose rabbis claim to be Reform, but if you want to be accepted by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), you have to play by their rules.

One of  Judaism’s rules is “Who is a Jew?”,  an issue that has sharply divided Reform and Orthodox Jewry.

The Women’s Council is very concerned for Israelis from the Soviet Union who are not recognized as Jews.

But why?

Many of those “Jews” are not even Jews by the most liberal of standards. Under the government of Ariel Sharon, tens of thousands of people, and probably closer to 300,000, were allowed to make aliyah even though neither of their parents was Jewish. And it is questionable whether they want to be Jewish, unless it does not require any commitment to anything.

The question remains whether the National Council of Jewish Women’s declaration is a move for the sake of Israeli Jewry or for the sake of destroying centuries-old acceptance of developing Jewish in orthodox Judaism.

To the NCJW’s credit, its opinions, even if politically oriented, are no less important than anyone else’s and serve as part of the verbal warfare that has been part and parcel of Jewish thought, as evidenced in the Talmud.

Raising the issue could add pressure on the Israeli Rabbinate to address the issue of civil marriages, and that in itself may strengthen the orthodox “monopoly” in Israel.

Courage? The State Department?

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

America has been pursuing a policy ever since 9/11 to honor what it perceives as moderate Muslims.

This policy, at present failed, would make sense if such moderate Muslims were pro Western freedoms, pro peace with Israel, anti Sharia, or would stand up to Islamic jihad. Regrettably, Muslims and former Muslims who do stand up to Islamism have been ignored; those embraced by the West are almost always anti-American and anti-Jew, and even make excuses for jihad and terrorism.

The most recent instance is Samira Ibrahim, an Egyptian national, nominated — and then withdrawn — by the U.S. State Department for its prestigious “International Women of Courage Award.” In its pursuit to appease Muslims, regardless of ideology, the U.S. ignored Ibrahim’s extreme hatred of the U.S. and Israel, and her celebration of 9/11 and terrorism. Yes, Ibrahim was courageous for filing a lawsuit against the Egyptian military for undergoing a virginity test, but that so called courage should be viewed in the right context.

After the revolution, Egypt was extremely embarrassed by an international uproar over the virginity test of about 21 young women who were demonstrating in Tahrir Square. That came in the wake of the brutal sexual assault of the CBS reporter Lara Logan. Egyptian government officials, many of whom are consumed with appearing democratic and civilized before the West, initially denied the story but then admitted it. That embarrassment was what encouraged some female victims to file a lawsuit, which the government allowed them to win in order to save face and prove to the West it had achieved a democracy after the revolution. Ms. Ibrahim was somewhat courageous for winning a lawsuit against the Egyptian military; however, that lawsuit should never have risen to the level of becoming an icon to be honored by the U.S .State Department. Officials in the State Department, thinking no one was looking into her background, perhaps including them, ignored who Ms. Ibrahim really was.

Ms. Ibrahim’s views are no breakthroughs of courage against the real problems of the Muslim world: her head covering remains a symbol of her defense of Sharia. She has never demonstrated against the forced virginity checks that occur daily in Egypt at almost all weddings to make sure the bride is a virgin. As a child in Egypt, I attended weddings where the bride’s virginity blood was on display on a white handkerchief while guns were shot to celebrate the blessed event proving the family’s pride in their daughter’s virginity. Neither did Ibrahim lead a movement in Egypt against female genital mutilation or the Egyptian marriage contract, which asks the bride to sign a paper before the marriage stating she is a virgin.

There is also no feminist movement in Egypt lead by Ibrahim, against the barbaric honor killings of girls found not to be virgins; that is perhaps because all are either dead or have undergone reconstructive virginity surgery, a popular procedure for girls who must save their necks.

While many Muslims today are starting to speak against the brutality of Sharia laws which cause “virginity tests” in the first place, Ibrahim never speaks ill of Sharia, or condemns its laws against women and non-Muslims. Ibrahim is, however, a very vocal anti-American, who celebrated the anniversary of 9/11 as well as violence and terror against Israelis. What courage is it if the majority of Egyptians shares her feelings? What courage did our State Department think it was celebrating?

After failing to receive the Award, Ibrahim blamed the Zionist lobby in America; her “logic” is popular in Egypt, where people blame all ills on Jews. It is a sad fact that Ibrahim’s views actually do represent the majority of the so-called moderate Muslims everywhere. Such moderate Muslims, who are demonstrating today against the Morsi government, are no less anti-American than the radicals. As a matter of fact many of them wish to resume hostilities against Israel and believe that Morsi caved to the American pressure; they are now accusing him of being a puppet of the U.S. just like his predecessor. The sad truth is that most so-called “moderate” Muslims could be as anti-American and anti-Semitic as Al Qaeda. That is why the U.S. should be vastly more cautious and realistic in taking sides at all in the Middle East.

Moroccan Ghosts Hacked Reform Congregation Websites

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

When I started reading this JTA story, I was sure the offenders were some vigilante Satmars, avenging Orthodox Judaism:

“The websites of several congregations hosted by the Union for Reform Judaism were hacked and linked to anti-Semitic websites.

“Following the weekend hacking, the URJ pulled down the websites for scanning and clean-up, according to Mark Pelavin, the URJ’s senior advisor to the president.

“In an e-mail to JTA, Pelavin said the sites were set to be brought back online by Monday evening, adding that URJ made some changes to its security protocol.”

But then the writer revealed that the hackers appear to be a group calling itself Moroccan Ghosts, according to Jeffrey Salkin, the Anti-Defamation League’s New Jersey community director.

Since March, Moroccan Ghosts has hacked some 82 websites, mostly in the United States, but also in France, Britain, Vietnam, South Africa, Germany, Spain and China, the ADL said. The Facebook page of Moroccan Ghosts includes graphics reading “Free Palestine,” as well as an Israeli flag ripped in half and on fire.

A member of the group, a 17-year-old hacker from Morocco who calls himself King Neco, in an interview from over the summer with Eduard Kovacs on the Softpedia website, identified as part of the organization’s objectives “Defending Palestine and Jerusalem ‘al Qods.’”

Not meaning to sound callused about the suffering of fellow Jews, but the cure for this could be simple: the Reform congregations should contact the Moroccan Ghosts and explain to them that they, the Reform, mostly feel very similarly about defending Palestine, etc., as they do, and that their real enemy are the non-Reform Jews. Go hack those extremist right-wingers and leave us alone.

It works whenever Arab hackers attack the Haaretz site – they always call back to apologize when they realize they hit one of their own.

America Needs a New Civil Space Policy

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Other nations are not waiting for the US to decide what kind of space policy it wants.

China is moving ahead with its independent manned space program. On June 18, 2012, a Chinese Shenzhou capsule, with China’s first female Taikonaut aboard, docked with China’s new space station. This Chinese mission is most likely meant to show that China is winning a new space race with the United States.

In January 2013, whatever the new administration, it will almost certainly not consider civil space policy to be one of its top priorities – civil space being the government’s non-military space program. The most important part of that is NASA; other parts include NOAA for civilian weather satellites and the FAA office of commercial space transportation for licensing commercial space launches.

If, in the first few weeks, space questions arise at all, restoring the 22% (or more) cuts made by the current administration to America’s military space programs will take precedence over decisions on the future of NASA. The European Space Agency has, at least for the moment, given up on major new cooperative space exploration programs with NASA. Further, the confused management of the US Space Agency has discouraged most of the world’s space organizations from joining with Americans on any serious new projects.

This situation is the opposite of the goal which the Obama administration set for itself in the June 2010 National Space Policy. The White House policy makers said then that they wanted to “expand international cooperation on mutually beneficial space activities to broaden and extend the benefits of space …”

International partnerships for space exploration are certainly being developed — only without the United States.

It is hard nevertheless to imagine that the question, “What do we do about NASA?” can be long postponed: the US government’s military space and civilian space (which mostly means NASA) are two sides of the same coin. The same firms that support the military’s essential space functions also support NASA’s science and exploration programs. The stress on major civil space programs — caused by a combination of complex requirements, underfunding and poor management — means that in early 2013, several of the most important programs, including the Mars exploration project and the James Webb Space Telescope, will be in even deeper trouble than they already are.

Any new administration will at some point have to face the incredibly incompetent way in which the future of scientific research on the International Space Station (ISS) has been handled. To put it bluntly, the same woman who was in charge of writing the specifications for the body which is to supervise science on the ISS, is now a senior officer in the institution that won the contract. This involves, at the very least, what used to be called “the appearance of impropriety.” Until the new administration and NASA take dramatic action to separate themselves from this mess, investigations and litigation will probably ensure that very little science will be done on the station.

Moreover, to save money for the very costly and behind-schedule Webb Space Telescope — managed by the Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland, and the pet project of the powerful and sometimes feared Democratic Senator, Barbara Milkulski — the rest of NASA’s science programs have been gutted. This plunder has been especially true of the planetary science missions: future Mars exploration programs have been canceled, and the planned “Flagship” mission to the outer planets has been postponed to the point where it is doubtful it will fly anytime within the next decade.

The manned space exploration program is a shambles. The commercial space projects are taking baby steps at a time where giant ones are needed. One hopes that the so-called “New Space” companies will find a way to thrive in this environment, but they are, with the exception of SpaceX, nowhere near ready to fly paying passengers into orbit, and will not be ready for some years to come.

In the early morning of May 22, 2012, SpaceX, based in Hawthorn California, finally launched its Dragon ISS resupply capsule on the company’s own Falcon 9 rocket. This was only the third Falcon 9 launch and the first since December of 2010. Three days later, on May 25th, the Dragon capsule was successfully berthed onto the space station. There is nothing unusual about a complex space launch vehicle taking more time than expected to perfect. For a private firm such as SpaceX, however, it has been an expensive process that has, no doubt, hurt its bottom line, at least for the short term.

The SpaceX Dragon’s launch was carried out under the terms of the Bush-era Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. In 2007 and 2008, NASA was planning to extend the COTS contract to cover transporting people, as well as cargo, to the ISS under the so-called COTS-D program. Now, instead of the commercial program being a useful auxiliary to NASA’s main human exploration plans, COTS-D was renamed the Commercial Crew and Cargo Development program (CCDev) and, after that re-renaming, is now named the Commercial Crew Program (CCP). NASA created this program to build vehicles that would take over the entire job of carrying people and cargo from Earth to orbit and back, a task was formerly performed by the Space Shuttle.

Congress rejected that approach; at present a stalemate exists between those who support giving the entire job to the so-called “commercial” industry and those who are pushing for a compromise. The compromise which the Obama administration reluctantly accepted in 2010 was that NASA would continue to develop the Orion capsule for possible missions to the asteroids, the Moon or Mars, and that NASA would begin work on a new rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which closely resembled the heavy-lift Ares V, a part of the Bush era Constellation Return-to-the-Moon Program. The SLS, like the Ares V, will, in theory, be able to lift more than 120 tons of payload into the Earth’s orbit — more than any other rocket in history. The current leadership at NASA, however, has been less than enthusiastic about the SLS program and has tried to undermine it every chance they got.

So how, in January 2013, could a new President restore NASA’s place as a world leader in science, technology and exploration? Perhaps by following three relatively-simple-to-understand principles:

Number OneRespect the US Constitution

Congress is a co-equal branch of the government. As such, it may be incredibly frustrating to deal with at times; however, its role as the keeper of the national purse must be acknowledged. The Obama administration’s cancellation of the Constellation program, which aimed to return Americans to the Moon and eventually land US astronauts on Mars, was nothing short of an act of political vandalism. Constellation had been carefully crafted, with considerable input from senior Senators and Representatives from both political parties. Killing Constellation poisoned NASA’s relations with the men and women on Capitol Hill. Until there is new leadership at the space agency and also at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the bitterness and anger will endure.

Number Two: Set Clear Goals

People are tired of hearing about President Kennedy’s 1961 instructions to NASA to “within this decade, land a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth.” The Apollo program was a product of a unique time and place. The US will never again devote more than 2% of GDP to NASA as it did in the mid 1960s. If the country were to spend even 1% of its annual wealth on NASA, it would look like a miracle.

Yet, reduced funding is no excuse for allowing the space agency to disaggregate into a unconnected set of programs which not only cannibalize each other, but which are often canceled after spending billions with nothing to show for them. A Back-to-the-Moon-and-on-to-Mars program is still the most sensible, and doable, long term goal. Humanity needs to explore and settle new worlds, and America needs to be at the forefront of those efforts.

Number Three: Reform the Way NASA Does Business

As with many other Federal agencies and departments, the waste that results from starting and then canceling programs dwarfs any other form of governmental waste. The cancellation of the Constellation program, after more than 9 billion dollars had been spent on it, was merely one example of this practice. Few foreign governments habitually start, and then kill, expensive national programs with the same reckless disregard for the national purse or the national interest as do our leaders in Washington DC.

To carry out these reforms not only does NASA desperately need to fix its management problems, such as the ones which have led to the wild cost overruns in the Webb Space Telescope program, but above all NASA needs new leaders in Washington. Any President should look soon into a top-to-bottom, radical reform and simplification of the gigantic and complex Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). America’s FAR are rivaled only in their Kafkaesque complexity and lack of rationality by America’s Tax Code.

Done correctly, such reforms would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years, not only at the Defense Department, but also at NASA. FAR reform would free up cash inside the NASA budget for research, science and exploration.

It should be noted that both of NASA’s commercial programs, COTS and the CCP, have been carried out under the “Space Act Agreement” law. This legislation has enabled the COTS and CCP contractors to build their vehicles to fill NASA crew and cargo transportation needs without having to fulfill the costly and time consuming requirements of the Federal Acquisition Regulations. This raises the question: Why doesn’t NASA ask all its contractors to work under the Space Act Agreement rules?

It needs to be clearly understood America’s civil space program is just as much an instrument of national power as the US Navy or the State Department. It is to be hoped that the President and Congress will in the future recognize this fact.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/america-needs-a-new-civil-space-policy/2012/09/14/

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